‘No’ to escalation


Our position on the war in Iraq should come as no secret to readers who have followed our commentary on US foreign policy. Many of us opposed the war from the outset as unnecessary, immoral and adverse to our nation’s standing in the world.

We know that taking a stand against the escalation of the war will upset some of our readers and advertisers. We know too that the president’s announced plans to deploy some 20,000 additional soldiers to Iraq is by now old news. And yet, with due respect to those who view the war differently, we must firmly and continuously state our disagreement with any escalation. To do less would abdicate our responsibilities as citizens.

Our position is well within the mainstream of public opinion. A poll released on Jan. 18 by the conservative John William Pope Civitas Institute found that 57 percent of North Carolinians favor some kind of withdrawal from Iraq while only 11 percent support increasing troop levels.

Opposition to military escalation ranges across the ideological spectrum in our state, which is proud to call itself “the most military-friendly” in the nation.

Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, an announced presidential candidate, challenged his fellow Democrats at the historic Riverside Church in New York City on Jan. 14. “If you’re in Congress and you know this war is going in the wrong direction, it is no longer enough to study your options and keep your own counsel,” he said. “Silence is betrayal. Speak out, and stop this escalation now. You have the power to prohibit the president from spending any money to escalate the war – use it.”

No one should miss the symbolism of Edwards making his stand on the eve of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday at Riverside Church. Almost 40 years ago the great peacemaker called for a military withdrawal from Vietnam from the same pulpit.

“This business of… filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love,” King preached. “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

The terrible toll of war makes for unlikely political bedfellows, and while not everybody will share King’s radical critique of military spending, many solid conservatives have concluded that needlessly wasting the lives of our fighting men and women on a fool’s errand demonstrates disrespect for their sacrifice.

Without flourish or calculation our Republican congressman Howard Coble has been calling for withdrawal from Iraq for two years.

“Do we wait until we lose 5,000 troops and then depart?” he asked in a Jan. 18 interview with MSNBC’s Chris Jansing. “I think the time has come to hand the baton over to [the Iraqis]. Someone asked what I thought of the surge; I said I am in favor a of a surge whose destination is the United States of America.”